In Brief

Program pairing police, mental health screeners to expand to 10 counties

By: - February 8, 2023 1:53 pm
Matt Platkin

Attorney General Matt Platkin said the program has helped hundreds of people with “effectively no use of force,” resulting in better and more efficient mental health outcomes. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

New Jersey will expand a program that pairs plainclothes police officers with mental health screeners to 10 counties in the current fiscal year, with hopes of taking the program statewide after July 1, Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials announced Wednesday.

The program, dubbed ARRIVE Together, is meant to prevent violent escalations during police responses to mental health incidents and divert individuals who might otherwise become incarcerated toward treatment.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officers are not trained to be experts in dealing with mental health crises, and responding to an individual in crisis alongside a trained mental health professional is proving that we can achieve more successful outcomes than when we ask police to step into these fraught situations alone,” Murphy said at a Perth Amboy press conference.

The program was first launched in 2021 as a pilot in Cumberland County, where officials said it eliminated the use of force during mental health calls. It was expanded to portions of Union County last year.

“We knew from data across the country 50% of these calls end in use of force. Half of them. You think about that,” State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said. “You know how many uses of force we’ve had in Cumberland County? Zero — not one use of force in almost 250 calls.”

Murphy and Attorney General Matt Platkin said the program would expand to eight more counties before the new fiscal year begins on July 1 using $2 million from the current year’s budget.

Thirty-seven municipal or county law enforcement agencies in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, and Union counties will join the program.

The new additions include Atlantic City and Hamilton, among numerous others, and the program could be extended to more towns in Middlesex and Camden counties using federal grant money awarded to the New Jersey State Police, Platkin said.

The governor said he would propose a five-fold increase in the program’s funding during a budget address he’s set to deliver later this month with the goal of expanding the program to every county in the state.

“We’ve helped hundreds of people— no injuries, no arrests, effectively no use of force, and importantly, better and more efficient mental health outcomes,” Platkin said. “We’re not just dropping people off at the emergency room, and we’re not making officers wait hours at the hospital.”

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.